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Palmer Ridge High School senior Riley Jones was recently awarded a full college scholarship by the Boettcher Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to keeping Colorado's finest students inside state lines.

When Riley Jones got home Saturday afternoon and saw the large envelope from the Boettcher Foundation, she thought there might be good news inside. Rejection notices tend to come in smaller packages.

“My parents were already home, but hadn’t opened it,” Jones, 18, said. “Although they did try to use a flashlight to peek inside.”

Jones and her parents opened the package and got the news they had been hoping for: The Palmer Ridge High School senior had been selected as a recipient of the Boettcher Foundation Scholarship.

The Boettcher Foundation — a nonprofit dedicated to keeping Colorado’s most promising young minds within state lines — awards 42 scholarships annually, selecting the most impressive candidates from the roughly 1,500 students who apply each year.

"Boettcher Scholars are selected for their academic achievement, outstanding character, and service and leadership in their schools and communities," foundation president Katie Kramer said in a news release Tuesday. “The Boettcher Scholarship is an investment in our state’s doers and difference makers.”

Jones is not the first “difference maker” in her family to earn a Boettcher scholarship. Her grandmother, Judy, was awarded the grant in 1957 and graduated from the University of Colorado in 1961.

The four-year scholarship will cover nearly all expenses at the Colorado school of Jones’ choice, including full tuition, fees, books and a stipend for living expenses.

The news release noted that those selected are not officially considered Boettcher scholars until they accept the offer. If they decline, the grant will be offered to an alternate.

Jones happily accepted, and will officially be named a Boettcher scholar in a formal announcement in early May. She plans to study engineering and leadership at the University of Colorado or Colorado State University.

“It means so much to me that the Boettcher Foundation chose to invest in me,” Jones said. “I will work hard to make that investment worth it — to give back to Colorado.”

Jones likes to keep a full schedule. Among other extracurricular activities, she serves as student body president, plays soccer and plans recreational events for the YMCA’s Real Alternatives to Drugs and Drinking program. She’s also a member of her school’s Friends of Rachel Club, a kindness and compassion-based group named for Rachel Scott, who was the first student killed in the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School.

“When you love everything that you’re doing, it doesn’t feel like you’re busy,” Jones said. “It just feels like you’re having fun all the time.”

The Boettcher selection process was a stressful one, she said, as 1,500 applicants were whittled down to 300 semi-finalists, and then to 100 finalists, until the envelope showed up at her house Saturday and she read its contents with equal parts elation and relief.

“It was getting pretty nerve-wracking, checking the mail every day,” she said.  “I’m glad that part is over.”

The newly minted Boettcher scholar credits her parents and her 17-year-old brother, Nate, for helping her deal with the suspense of waiting.

“I have such an amazing family,” Jones said.  “They are unconditionally supportive, and I could not be more thankful for what they did for me throughout this process.”

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